Posted by: Jack Henry | August 1, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Misplaced Modifiers

I love funny misplaced modifiers. Yes, they’re grammatically incorrect, but at least this is a grammar subject that provides a little humor! Look at these examples:

  • She handed out brownies to the children stored in Tupperware®.
  • With his tail held high, my father led his prize poodle around the arena.
  • I’m looking for a small table for my kid with short legs.

You can see that something is wrong with each of those sentences. The problem is that the modifier is not placed next to the word or phrase it is meant to modify. The children (hopefully) are not stored in Tupperware. And my father has never held his tail high with or without his prize poodle.

Let’s look closer at the last example: I’m looking for a small table for my kid with short legs. In this sentence, I’m actually looking for a table that has short legs, so the phrase “with short legs” should be placed next to the phrase “I’m looking for a table.” The sentence really should be written like this: I’m looking for a table with short legs for my kid.

You’d be surprised how often editors need to rearrange phrases to place modifiers where they belong. This happens a lot with long, complex sentences. Unfortunately for us, the sentences we are working with are rarely as funny as these examples. You can help us out by watching for misplaced modifiers in your own writing. You don’t want to shoot an elephant in your pajamas.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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